The Buccaneers easily dispatched the Eagles in their NFC wild-card matchup, defeating Philadelphia 31-15 to advance to the divisional round. But Tampa Bay’s strong all-around performance didn’t mean coach Bruce Arians escaped the game without criticism.
Early in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, the Buccaneers were forced to punt from deep in their own territory, but Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor failed to cleanly catch the ball. Tampa Bay recovered his fumble near midfield, a huge blow to Philadelphia’s comeback chances.
The focus of the play quickly shifted from the Bucs’ recovery to Arians’ reaction. One of Fox’s replay angles showed Arians walking onto the field and smacking the helmet of Bucs safety Andrew Adams.
“Bruce Arians comes in. He’s pretty excited,” Fox analyst Troy Aikman said during the broadcast. “He takes a whack at Adams. I don’t know if he’s — not exactly sure what that’s about.”
The NFL and NFL Players Association didn’t release any statements regarding Arians’ actions, but a source told ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio the situation is “being handled.” When asked during his Monday press conference if he regretted making contact with Adams’ helmet, Arians offered a rather direct response.
“No, and I’ve seen enough dumb,” Arians said. “You can’t pull guys out of a pile. We just got a big play, great field position, and he’s trying to pull a guy out of a pile. And I was trying to knock him off that guy so he didn’t get a penalty.”
This incident came only two weeks after Arians’ sideline spat with former Bucs wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was released following his unceremonious exit from the team’s Week 17 game. Brown has taken to social media to argue he was dealing with an ankle injury and physically unable to perform, leading to an outburst in which he ripped off his equipment, walked to the locker room and never returned. The Buccaneers asserted Brown was cleared to play, adding that he never indicated to the medical staff he could not play.
“It’s pretty obvious what happened. He left the field and that was it,” Arians said earlier this month. “We had a conversation and he left the field.”
For now, it appears Arians won’t face any sort of discipline from the NFL for the Adams incident. The Buccaneers will next face the Rams on Sunday with a trip to the NFC championship game on the line.